Saturday, April 28, 2012

The April one

       It's my last Saturday in county for a while. Am I out with my friends that I won't see for a while? Will I make an appearance at the pig roast in Stockholm, or should I be checking to see if the spelt are running yet?  Nope. Instead I'm sitting here on the couch in my sister's house dog-sitting because Zimmerman can't make it more than 12 hours by himself. After Monday the training season officially starts off. This is my last weekend of what was supposed to be my month off from the world of biathlon.
       I'm not going to complain about the no go on the Russia trip because that one's old now. However, I needed to make an attempt at some sort of vacation. Living on a hill in Stockholm was turning into a bit of cocoon. Relaxing? Yes. Fulfilling? Not as much. I had sent an old friend of mine a message back in January that we should plan some hang out time in the spring. Last week he finally came around to replying to my repeated contact attempts. My friend is attending Middlebury College. I don't like driving for nine hours when gas is four plus on a car that needs to last me, but there was no other choice. I simply needed to get out and make the attempt. Low and behold it was a fun weekend. In a way I was going to college... except without any classes at a school I couldn't possible afford. Three days of this was enough to reboot the focus. When I got home I was anxious to get back in the swing of things.
        There is no true off month. I haven't gone more than five days without some sort of exercise in about a decade. So what did I do for training? I can't say that there was much for stellar spring skiing, but there was some skiing in there. There is a trail not too far down the road from my house. This trail (officially called Jack's Trail) is a real gem. It's groomed all winter and holds snow like no other. When there is no snow anywhere, there is snow there. On more than one occasion I skied on snow and went road biking in the same day.
         The rest of my spring was grand but does not deserve it's own individual paragraph. So in short here's what else has a happened: I went for a two hour ride in the sub 40 degree rain the other day. I was so cold and miserable it was making me dizzy. Seriously, this was not a healthy situation. I've decided to become addicted to coffee. I was already going out of my way by drinking two cups of black tea in exchange for one cup of coffee. I once drank four cups of coffee in the late afternoon and still took a nap at six pm. Not sure what to make of that. I went smelting last week. It was exactly as I remembered it. It's not the net, time of day, location, or even the fish that make it a genuine smelting experience. It's the valley-pseudo-french dialect that I always remember the most. The sister and sister's bf are out of town for the weekend and it's up to me to make sure her dog lives to see them again. Zimmerman is an Australian Sheppard that resembles what you'd think a hyena would look like if it were fed steroidal dog food. I put an end to this with a 2.5 hour run. Maybe I forgot that dogs aren't endurance creatures, or maybe I just wanted to prove whose indestructible and whose not.
       It's been a nice month. The fun times were fun and the relaxing times were the best. Now that I know how to get a visa next year will be different. I head out on Monday for LP. The first  official A1 team camp starts bright and early May first. Fatigue season will soon be in full swing.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

More Shenanigans!

      This has not been a typical spring. I had so many expectations and thus far most of them have not gone according to plan. The 50km in Craftsbury, VT was a solid race, the trip to Russia was almost a success, the original spring vacation never happened, and these everyday chores are accumulating faster than I can complete them. Come to think of it I can't remember the last time I was truly board with life.
Counting the laps by myself was out of the question.
       The 50km was took place on a 1.5km loop. This was 33 lap effort. The times may have been fast, but it sure didn't feel that way.  I was given a good start position. Starting in the back of the pack never helps my cause as I'm not very smooth in groups. The course profile was not the best, but it had it's benefits to my style. I was expecting the conditions to much worse than they were. I was surprised that they held up as well as they did. At about the half way mark the snow started to give and felt like we were skiing on sugar. I need to be able to work with all types of snow conditions and I saw this as race opportunity to work on my weak points.
      Nevertheless I came into the race with a winning attitude. The lead pack never really solidified it's self for most of the race. It was basically a long train. Long enough to lap other athletes again and again. I hung around the top three or four and decided that I could relax a little more and dropped down to the top ten or so. Kris Freemen and Tad Elliot made a break for it with about eight laps to go. I was behind a group of skiers and was admittedly starting to feel it in my legs. It wasn't a lack of engine power or a glucose issue, but more so my legs were simple losing functional capacity. It was going to be a slow and painful death. Once Tad and Freemen were clearly in there own pack they hung out at about 30 seconds up on the rest of us. In retro spec I wished I had made the break with them, but with bad timing and a surmounting fear of hitting the wall I didn't go for it and stayed back with the pseudo pack.
      The rest of the top ten took turns leading the last six laps. At one point I tried to make a break for it. I didn't know for sure how many laps I had left but I assumed it was very few. Turns out I still had five laps to go. I stood up and didn't hesitate to let someone else lead the way of my failed get away plan. Technique has come a long way this season and has played a big role in any increase in ski speed I've had. This was meaningless going up the climb for the last time. My legs and arms felt like they were going to detach themselves. I wouldn't have blamed them. The thought of dropping out crossed my mind. It would have been so easy to just stop on the side of the trail and take part in barbecue. In retro spec I might have been lacking glucose at that point. A few more racers pulled away from me and there was nothing I could do about it. When your done, your done. I had just enough room left to make a push into the finish for a seventh place. 1:23 down from the lead and only 20 seconds out of third.
        The real shenanigans lie with in the effort to make it Russia. It was sounding more and more fun. It would have been the closest thing to a vacation I've been on. I've never gone through the process of getting a visa by myself and it's not that easy of a task even if you've done it before. I spent a lot of time sending emails and making calls on both sides of the project and with limited time it was't looking like I was going to make. Unexpectedly I ran into Catherine Collins. Catherine and I go way back in the day. Catherine was able to put into contact with some potential help. With some extra pressure the process my just go fast enough to make the trip happen after all. On Monday I spent all morning getting my bearings straight once and for all. I prepared all of the paperwork right down to last detail. I was positive that everything was in the right place. If it really was, there was a very good chance of me going to Russia.
        Life was good until one particular email hit my inbox. This email was to inform me that there wasn't enough space left in my passport to stamp a Russian visa. "Seriously!" I said out loud. "that's the limiting factor, after all this, that's what it comes down to!" I made yet another phone call and learned that there was a slim chance still left. It would involve a lot of paper work, double my expenses, and all would have to be compiled and mailed over night before the post office in Caribou closed that mid afternoon. I hung up the phone, let out a few profanities, and thought it over. After weighing the pros and cons I decided not to risk it.  My spring business / vacation trip was canceled. I was pretty bummed.
        In other news the spring cleaning attempt is still a go. I don't see the end in sight, but in theory it should be there sooner or later. I started planing a small vacation with an old friend back in January. We were going to hang out while I was in the Vermont area last week. He called me to confirm plans as I was half way home. Maybe if I start now we can hang out the same time next year. I purchased a new computer. It's great, it really is, but it's going to take a while before I have all of the data from my old computer transferred and dialed in.

         The marathon at US spring series was my best 50km ever. The placing wasn't what I wanted, but the overall performance was a good sign. The visa fail was  a learning experience and it will make next years race in Kamchatski much smoother. The 50km and the visa flop are both good examples of how my lifestyle functions more often then not. Sometimes you can put off a job and an education and pour everything into one cause and get so close only to be shut down because of 20 seconds or one less blank page. I've grown "somewhat" tolerant of this shenanigan cycle over the years and that perspective makes me feel a little better about the situation.  

Sorry for the lack of updates lately, but it's the off season so cut me some slack!!